#WWV16: Mothers without Legal Status
By YWCA Metro Vancouver
This week, YWCAs across Canada commemorate YWCA Week without Violence, an annual week of violence prevention. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed and share our posts with your networks.
At the YWCA, decades of experience have shown us that when we meet the needs of women on the margins, all women benefit. It’s why we continue with our advocacy efforts for Mothers without Legal Status. If we can help Mothers without Legal Status feel safe, supported and free from violence, then we are promoting a culture that believes all women should be free from violence.
Mothers without Legal Status are women who do not have permanent status under the Immigration & Refugee Protection Act to stay in Canada, but family court orders prevent their children from leaving the jurisdiction. Women in this situation face deportation while their children are left with partners who abused them. This hardship is unacceptable, and we work tirelessly to ensure every Mother without Legal Status who comes to us for help is approved to stay in Canada as a Permanent Resident.
While our advocacy efforts alleviate some day-to-day suffering for Mothers without Legal Status, the permanent solution is to change laws so women are no longer ripped away from their children. Our 100% success rate is validating, but it is still no guarantee for these women, who can spend up to three years in limbo. They fear every knock on the door could be Canada Border Services Agency, coming to take them away.
This fear and vulnerability sends many Mothers without Legal Status back to their abusers. Our system renders women dependent on their abusers to secure status in Canada, as it is their abusers who are entering an agreement with the government to have their wives stay in Canada. The abuser controls the sponsorship. He can threaten to withdraw it if she is not compliant, stall document processing or refuse to follow up on requests for more information or documentation.
If we want to end violence against women, we need to prevent a woman’s status in Canada from being tied to her abuser. We need to allow a woman leaving her abusive partner to file her own application, in secret, using the address of a friend, transition house or settlement agency. The applicant should be able to use whatever evidence she has of her abuse, including police or hospital reports, her own statement, information from victim services or other agencies she has sought support from or friends and family who are aware of the abuse. Most importantly, this application must allow her to begin the process of securing financial independence through income assistance and/or employment (and she should not be penalized for her personal path towards economic independence).
This is not a radical idea. This type of program has existed for more than 16 years in the United States and has not created havoc, abuse of the process or increased immigration demands. Creating a similar program here will demonstrate that Canada is serious about ending violence against every person, every day.
Learn more about YWCA programs supporting women leaving abusive relationships.
- To support YWCA Mothers’ without Legal Status: 604 895 5763 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- To learn more about our advocacy work: Chantelle Krish, Associate Director of Advocacy and Communications email@example.com
- If you are, or know someone who is a mother without legal status in need of individual support, guidance or advocacy: Andrea Vollans, YWCA Legal Educator firstname.lastname@example.org
YWCA Metro Vancouver
The YWCA serves women and families throughout the metropolitan region spanning Burnaby, Surrey, the Tri-cities, Maple Ridge, Langley/Aldergrove, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Richmond and North Vancouver.
Our mission is to touch lives and build better futures for women and their families through advocacy and integrated services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities.
Our resources on Clicklaw include:
- Mothers Without Status: Practical information for service providers working with women who have no legal status. This booklet gives you a step by step guide to help a woman without status and provides useful contact information.
- Legal Educator. Our legal educator provides one-to-one legal support and group workshops on a range of legal matters for women in need, including family law, poverty law, custody agreements, peace bonds and affidavits. While we offer education, resources, referrals and support around legal issues, we do not provide legal advice.